Floor care - what's the problem?

8th of November 2018
Floor care - what's the problem?

Does the type of facility have an impact on the challenge involved when it comes to cleaning its floor? Ann Laffeaty asks manufacturers their views.

On the face of it, a hard floor is a hard floor wherever it happens to be. But the whole point of a floor is to be walked upon  - and the type and intensity of the traffic it receives will vary enormously depending on the purpose of the facility. So, how far does a floor’s environment impact on the cleaning and maintenance task?

“The environment will determine the footfall – and the higher the traffic, the greater the need for maintenance,” said IPC’s communications and PR manager Gabriella Bianco. “The shape and size of the floor will also have an impact, particularly in large areas such as airports, hotel receptions and retail outlets.”

The sheer size of the floor area in airport terminals, supermarkets and large hotel reception areas can present a major cleaning challenge, she says.

“These large, crowded areas attract high numbers of visitors plus different types of dirt,” she said. “Contract cleaners will also have to clean them in a short space of time with the minimum amount of noise to avoid disturbing the public. Factors such as heels, castors and trolley cases can be a real issue in these environments since they will all leave behind marks that can damage the floor permanently, resulting in the appearance of neglect.”

Rubber marks made by wheelchairs and trolleys are often removable, she says, while scratches from harder wheels can be permanent.

According to Bianco the level of traffic in facilities such as schools, gyms and leisure centres is not usually the main problem when it comes to cleaning their floors. “Here there will be a need to keep all surfaces sanitised which means that brooms, hot water, buckets, detergents and brushes will not be sufficient for the task,” she said.

In environments such as hospitals and nursing homes there will be a need for optimum hygiene, she adds. “The biggest challenge here is to prevent the spread of infections which means cleaning must be carried out frequently and intensively.”

And in a commercial kitchen the main problem will be the risk of greasy spills. “However, aggressive detergents will potentially be dangerous for staff.” IPC offers a range of steam generators from the smaller SG-08 and SG-10 to the powerful industrial SG-70 for cleaning ceramics, cookers and worktops.

The type of floor in question can also have a significant impact on the cleaning task, according to Bianco. “Porous tile surfaces are perhaps the most difficult types of floor to maintain and polish because the dirt penetrates into the pores of the stone,” she said. “These kinds of floors require scrubber dryers equipped with advanced cleaning programmes, microfibre pads and appropriate chemicals.

“And weather conditions can also affect the way you clean a floor and can constitute a real challenge.”

IPC offers the 464 battery powered pedestrian sweeper which is designed to remove dust, dirt and debris from hard floors. The company also offers the new CT51 scrubber dryer which has interchangeable brush heads allowing it to be transformed into a single 50-55 cm disc, a twin 60 cm disc, a twin 70 cm disc or a 55 cm roller.

The individual properties of a floor along with the different levels of traffic and soiling definitely add to the cleaning challenge according to Diversey’s global floorcare portfolio manager Michelle Boulanger.

“Requirements will vary depending on whether the floor is in a warehouse, an airport, a shopping mall or a school,” she said. “There will also be specific hygiene standards that will need to be addressed in a hospital or a commercial kitchen.”

The high traffic in an environment such as an airport terminal complicates the cleaning task, she says. “Airport cleaners need to cover large areas that see thousands of people arriving in all kinds of weather and who will be tracking in dirt on a daily basis,” said Boulanger. “Added to that is the fact that the floors are in constant use and will often bear marks from heavy wheeled traffic and trolleys.”

For this type of large, heavily-trodden area she believes an automated machine to be the optimal solution. “A manual auto scrubber will move autonomously through the airport and cover large areas, increasing productivity and improving daily results,” she said. “Meanwhile the janitorial staff will be tasked with cleaning those areas that an automated machine cannot reach.”

Specialist treatment

Hospitals often require specialist treatment to reduce bacteria and other contaminants, she says. “Here chemical-free cleaning using diamond pads will significantly reduce the chemical impact in these sensitive areas.”

According to Boulanger, 24-hour facilities tend to be the most difficult to maintain. “However, certain floor substrates such as concrete also bring unique challenges since these are easily stained,” she said.

Various machines, products and methods on the market will facilitate the repair or removal of black heel marks, topical scratching and scuffs. “What is important is not the product itself, but the overall solution,” adds Boulanger. Diversey offers a number of solutions for use on resilient and non-resilient floors including its range of Taski cleaning machines.

Kärcher’s product manager Christian Mrowka agrees with other manufacturers that the type of environment helps to determine the cleaning challenge.

“Other factors include the size of the area, the amount of furniture there is, the time-frame available for cleaning, how much maintenance is needed for the floor type, overcoming obstacles such as ramps and slopes, the structure of the floor and the type of dirt to be removed,” he said.

Commercial kitchens represent a particular challenge, says Mrowka. “A very high level of surefootedness is required here in order to prevent work accidents,” he explains. “If a normal floor offers an anti-slip value of R9, a commercial kitchen must have a value of R11 to R13.

“Structured tiles in kitchens also have displacement nubs so that any water spilt will not create a slipping hazard, and grease and food residues deposited throughout the working day will quickly become caught between these nubs.”

High traffic areas

Other issues include the need for cleaning in narrow spaces and the high levels of protein and fat that will need to be removed from a kitchen floor, he says.

“Wherever food is cooked there will be stubborn stains and grease, and all food residues must be systematically removed in accordance with HACCP guidelines to eliminate any breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria,” says Mrowka. “Alternating between acidic and alkaline foam cleaning products is important in order to reliably eliminate any breeding grounds for microorganisms.”

When using acidic cleaning agents the tile joints must first be rinsed with water, he says. “This prevents the acid from soaking in and attacking the grouting.”

The main challenge in busy areas such as shopping centres is the high level of traffic they receive, he says. “Thousands of visitors and diverse types of dirt will dictate the maintenance cleaning requirements,” said Mrowka. “Cleaning here will mainly occur outside of opening hours, though in some situations it will need to be carried out immediately and the surfaces must be left dry again as quickly as possible.”

The types of dirt to be found on the floors of shopping centres include dust, sand, fluff, scraps of paper, cups and cans, he says. There will also be scuff-marks from shoes. “In addition there will be leftover food and sticky marks from drinks in the cafes and restaurants.

“It is important to clean these areas both quickly and effectively to keep the shopping centre looking attractive and offer visitors a clean and pleasant environment.”

Bakery production lines and abattoirs also represent a particular challenge, according to Mrowka. ”This is because of the high levels of dirt involved and the stringent hygiene requirements,” he said. “Refrigerated warehouses are also problematic because the low temperatures make cleaning difficult for both people and machines. For example, the battery life of a machine may decrease in low temperatures while materials such as rubber blades may offer a different level of performance.”

Particularly high standards of hygiene will be required in schools and hospitals, he adds. “In schools there are also safety issues regarding cleaning agents and cables, while the use of substances such as sand can damage the floors’ coating,” he said.

“And in a hospital there will be disinfection challenges plus the need for silent machines to avoid disturbing the patients.”

Kärcher offers a range of flexible machines equipped with the company’s Advanced Response Technology concept along with large, ride-on scrubber sweeper-combination models. The company also offers microfibre pads, brushes and orbital brush heads.

Specific issues

Each floor type has its own specific challenges according to Prochem sales manager Phil Jones. The company offers a range of cleaning machines, equipment, accessories and chemical products for cleaning and maintaining hard floors.

“Kitchens are subject to oil, grease and food soiling while airports and schools have to cope with heavy foot traffic, trolley cases, mud and drink spills,” he said.

“Issues in leisure centres include food and drink spills in the café; training shoe marks in the gym, and limescale and soap-scum build-up in the swimming pool and changing room.

“Hospitals have to cope with body fluids and medicine spillages as well as heavy foot traffic and sanitising issues. And these facilities operate around the clock so the contractor will be faced with the problem of finding a suitable time to clean.”

According to Jones there is “no easy, on-size-fits-all” solution to floor cleaning. “Each product is developed for specific surface and soiling types,” he explained. He believes that the type of facility combined with the type of flooring usually determines the cleaning challenge – though this is sometimes complicated by the geographical location.

“For example, the most challenging floor type I have personally come across is a marble foyer in a Middle Eastern hotel,” he said. “Marble is particularly popular in the Middle East but here the surface is constantly being attacked by sand blowing in or brought in on foot. Once the marble has become scratched and dull it can be very time-consuming to fix.”

Kärcher’s Christian Mrowka agrees that geographical location plus weather conditions can add to the challenge. “During the winter months there will be moisture, sludge and road salt to contend with in many shopping centres, for instance,” he said.

And IPS’s Bianco concurs. “Moulds and other staining agents may be left behind in very wet and rainy environments in northern Europe, whereas in southern Europe the persistent sunlight and heat exposure can discolour a floor and dry up surfaces over time,” she said. “In these circumstances it is essential to use right tools and equipment to provide a regular maintenance programme.”

But Diversey’s Michelle Boulanger feels that the real floor cleaning challenge is actually quite subjective. “It really depends on the expectations that a customer has about the appearance of their floor - and the budget they have to maintain it,” she said.


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